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Celebrating 40 Years of the Kimball Union Academy Fire Brigade

Dec 21, 2017 01:24PM ● By Linda Ditch
Growing up, do you remember someone at school playing a prank and pulling the fire alarm to get out of class? At Kimball Union Academy, just such an action resulted in a 40-year tradition of students participating in the KUA Fire Brigade, an event that will be celebrated this summer.

As the story goes, a student pulled a fire alarm just to watch the first responders in action. His punishment was to volunteer with the Plainfield Fire Department. This gave then-headmaster Tom Mikula the idea to organize a group of student volunteer firefighters. Ever since a select number of students are given an opportunity to join the fire brigade.

Being a brigade member isn’t easy. Prospective candidates must write an essay and then pass an interview with current brigade members and faculty leaders. If accepted into the program, they are expected to attend twice-monthly training sessions on all aspects of firefighting.

What do brigade members get to do? The KUA website explains: “Although student firefighters never enter burning buildings, they are thoroughly trained to be able to handle a variety of calls. Each year, the Meriden Volunteer Fire Department gets an average of 100 calls. This year, student firefighters have responded to calls about everything from off-road vehicles to basement fires. The brigade even responded to a HazMat call involving a home oil spill. Since Will Hughes, ’18, and Alex Cohen, ’18, both have Wildland Certification, they volunteered to go to North Woodstock, New Hampshire, to help control the forest fire there earlier this fall.”

Along with their firefighting duties, brigade members help with community outreach services. For example, this past Halloween, they directed traffic at the crosswalks on Main Street in Meriden to make sure trick-or-treaters got across the road safely. They also helped with the Bryant Hall Haunted House. In addition, the members visit Plainfield Elementary School and take part in Claremont’s fire apparatus parade.

The 40th-anniversary celebration of the KUA Fire Brigade will take place at KUA’s Reunion Weekend, June 8–10, 2018. Keep checking the KUA website for more details as they become available (

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